Hashimoto's thyroiditis has many names, but at its root, it is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. The disorder causes the body's immune system to produce antibodies that attack thyroid tissue and eventually destroy the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism, or the underproduction of thyroid hormone.
Emily was diagnosed with Hashimoto's in February 2019 after many frustrating years of feeling "off" and health care providers not knowing what was wrong or what to do. Whenever she would explain her symptoms (weight gain, depression, lack of energy/fatigue, swelling/bloating), they would be chalked up to things like being a mom, slowing metabolism, or hormones. It wasn't until her OBGYN did a routine thyroid exam and remarked that her thyroid (a small butterfly shaped organ in the neck area) felt lopsided and swollen on one side. From there, the learning and self advocating began!
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common form of autoimmune thyroid disease. It can occur at any age, but is most often seen in women and older adults. The disease does not cause any pain and often goes unnoticed for years. This, and the fact that it can present with various combinations of symptoms, makes diagnosis difficult.
Although Hashimoto's thyroiditis most commonly causes hypothyroidism, in some cases, it will first cause enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) and temporary thyroid gland overactivity (hyperthyroidism). This is called hashitoxicosis, and it is almost always followed by development of hypothyroidism.
The best way to officially diagnose Hashimoto's is with blood work to test for TSH, as well as thyroid antibodies. Oftentimes, as was the case with Emily, her TSH was always considered within the "normal" range but it was the presence of antibodies in her blood that confirmed her diagnosis. Again, this was a place that Emily had to self advocate for and push her doctor to order those tests, as they are not routinely performed.
Severe Hashimoto's must be treated with thyroid replacement therapy to help the body regain balance. But Emily found that diet and supplementation was enough intervention for her to find the balance without medication. Removing gluten and dairy from her diet were critical, as was adding in magnesium, selenium, ashwaganda, and rhodiola into her morning routine. Using these anti-inflammatory supplements helped balance out the effects of the Hashimoto's as well as gave her body some support with sleep and energy. You should always begin supplement programs under the guidance of a doctor and follow their advice regarding the need for replacement therapies.
If you are suffering from fatigue, depression, weight gain, hair loss, joint pain, bloating/puffy face and joints, dry skin and brittle nails, or infertility, discussing thyroid concerns with your doctor is a good idea. There are a lot of great resources available to determine how to achieve optimal health once you have a diagnosis! Never feel bad about advocating for yourself and doing the work to find a doctor or practitioner who will support your health goals and needs!